Rhapsody in Blue

I’m no music buff. But being human I enjoy music; mainly music inspiring positive emotion. Often supplying my own words to go with it.

I visit New York City for a yearly midtown event (pre-covid). And hurrying through the rumbustious streets of this city of cities, my inner ear always hears Rhapsody in Blue. Setting the experience to music.

What a pleasure to find in The Humanist magazine an article about Rhapsody by arts editor Daniel Thomas Moran. Discussing its 1924 composition by George Gershwin. But also its meaning. Moran beautifully expresses my own feelings evoked by this music.

It was a sound track for New York, but more, for all of America and what it represented. I can’t improve on Moran’s words:

“[I]t embodies all the hope and exuberance of America at its finest. It was the Jazz Age and the Industrial Age, and the time of an American artistic renaissance in culture and literature . . . .

“It was a time when all our best years seemed ahead of us, when the cauldron of culture and national identity and the embrace by all of that thing that we felt was American was at full boil, in full blossom.

“[W]hen we as a nation and a people seemed to be lifted skyward both literally and figuratively. We were strong and sure and passionate, inspiration was abundant, and we were willing to do the work and take all the risks.”

Yes, this is what I hear in the music. But notice that the foregoing is written in the past tense. That American spirit of Rhapsody in Blue did endure for several decades more — but then lost steam. And in the last few years has fallen off a cliff. Today the country’s psychic ethos is very different. No longer is Rhapsody the anthem of a vibrant American heart and soul. Instead we have the empty, truculent mockery of “Make America Great Again.”

Yet I will end with the words Moran did: “Even in the exuberant echoing vibrato of the opening notes, we can recognize the distant sounds of hope.”

7 Responses to “Rhapsody in Blue”

  1. Robyn Blumner Says:

    Hi Frank,

    If you are a PBS Passport member, you can watch the Broadway performance of An American in Paris and get your Gershwin fix all over again. It’s definitely worth watching. Just use the “search” feature.

    Robyn

    Robyn E. Blumner *President and CEO*, Center for Inquiry *Executive Director,* Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science 1012 14th St. NW, Suite 205 Washington, D.C. 20005 RBlumner@centerforinquiry.org

    The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Our vision is a world where people value evidence and critical thinking, where superstition and prejudice subside, and where science and compassion guide public policy.

    On Thu, Sep 17, 2020 at 2:11 PM The Rational Optimist wrote:

    > rationaloptimist posted: “I’m no music buff. But being human I enjoy > music; mainly music inspiring positive emotion. Often supplying my own > words to go with it. I visit New York City for a yearly midtown event > (pre-covid). And hurrying through the rumbustious streets of this ci” >

  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    Thanks
    Frank

  3. Don Bronkema Says:

    Bien-dit! All we hear now is the epigonic dirge of Trumpian grievance.

  4. Don Bronkema Says:

    All we hear now is Trumpian bricophone.

  5. Doug Weston-Kolarik Says:

    So, what is this…some meager attempt to provide a ray of hope to the readership? Failed!

    Doug Weston-Kolarik LISW, PhD, Vietnam Veteran

    On Thu, Sep 17, 2020 at 1:11 PM The Rational Optimist wrote:

    > rationaloptimist posted: “I’m no music buff. But being human I enjoy > music; mainly music inspiring positive emotion. Often supplying my own > words to go with it. I visit New York City for a yearly midtown event > (pre-covid). And hurrying through the rumbustious streets of this ci” >

  6. Daniel Thomas Moran Says:

    Your piece made my day. Glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed writing it. Try this version but first, buckle your seatbelt.

  7. Lee Says:

    > Today the country’s psychic ethos is very different. No longer is Rhapsody the anthem of a vibrant American heart and soul. Instead we have the empty, truculent mockery of “Make America Great Again.”

    I think the change began long before the current administration. An article in today’s The New York Times includes

    [Milton] Friedman, a free-market ideologue, published an essay 50 years ago this week in The Times Magazine in which he argued that corporations should not go beyond the letter of the law to combat discrimination or reduce pollution or maintain community institutions. Corporations, he said, have no social responsibilities except the sacred responsibility to make money.

    For 50 years now we have been pushed away from humming the same tune, and towards being selfish. Some casualties along the way include the communal spirituals so well represented by Rhapsody in Blue.

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